Rod “Toastman” Blackstone is Charleston’s deputy mayor by day, but at night
he terrorizes opposing players with burnt bread. The tradition started 20 yeas ago with a 1992
Charleston Wheelers playoff run at the now demolished Watt Powell Park in Kanawha City.
“We sat with home plate to our right and the visitor dugout
to our left,” Blackstone said. “People would walk back in front of us when they
struck out. Somebody said, ‘You are toast!’ I thought that’s a great cheer. So we started saying that. In 1992 Dennis Basteen – who owned the
baseball team at the time – after we’d done if for a year and half said that we
could make toast at the ball park.
“There’s a plug we plugged into from the front row. We waved
toast at the bad guys when they struck out.
So that was 1992 in the playoffs that year when we first started making
toast at the ball park.”
Blackstone still situates himself and his toaster just to the
left of home plate – prime heckling position.
At his feet he places more than 40 signs that he uses to leaven the
crowd to life.
They might contain cheers for Power players or jeers for the
opposition. Power vice president Andy
Milovich said Blackstone is a part of the quintessential minor league baseball
“Rod Blackstone is synonymous in the city of Charleston,” Milovich said. “It comes from a
real place, it’s something he’s trying to do everything in his power to try to
help his team win. It symbolizes how
important it is to Rod and hopefully how important baseball is to this
Milovich said there’s a reason the seats behind home plate
are known as the Toast Section.
“Every phone call you get, when someone orders a ticket
behind the net, they either want to be as close to Rod as they can or as far
from Rod as they can,” Milovich said. “That just summarizes how well known he
is and how closely associated he is with this ball park. Every fan recognizes it and either wants to
be a part of it or wants to sit somewhere quieter where they can focus on the
Blackstone said part of what draws people who do sit around
him is a sense of collaboration.
“I don’t think of all the wonderful things I say,” Blackstone
said. “There’s a lot of creativity out there.
We just want to add to the flavor of the game whether we’re winning a
close game or losing a rout. We’re going to have fun at the ball park.”
Blackstone interacts with his fellow fans as much as he
attempts to interact with opposing players.
Scott Robinson sits three rows behind the Toastman and across the aisle.
“He probably draws more of a crowd than the team does,”
Robinson said with a laugh. “It’s just the entertainment; all the teams in the
South Atlantic League, the players know what they’re coming to before they come
Billy Bob Taylor has been coming to minor league games in Charleston since the Charlies were in town in
the late 70s and early 80s. Taylor’s distinctive laugh echoes
throughout Power Park after strikeouts just as the
Toastman’s chants do. Taylor said there’s no minor league fan
quite like Blackstone.
“I think he has become a real icon in the minor league
baseball world,” Taylor said. “I know the players hate him. Rod has stats, he has the knowledge, he’s articulate,
he does everything, and he knows it all.”
Blackstone’s antics certainly do make an impression on
Cutter Dykstra plays 2nd base for the Hagerstown
Suns. Dykstra said he enjoys the back
and forth with West Virginia’s famed heckler.
“It’s the minor leagues,” Dysktra said. “I like to fire some
stuff back at him, but it makes it entertaining. That’s what he wants so I might as well give
it to him. Depends on how my game’s
going. If I’m doing good, I’ll tell him
what’s up, but if not, I’ll lay low.”
And that’s part of the duality of Blackstone’s goal in making
“To try to make sure our guys know that when they come up,
we’re behind them,” Blackstone said. “And then to give the other team a little
something extra to think about. If
they’re thinking about me or something we’ve said, they might not be focusing
on that next pitch as much as they should be and that’ll give our team a little
bit of an edge.”
With his booming voice, the Toastman keeps on bellowing – 20
years and counting.